Analysis Of Dante Rossetti's, Jenny By Dante Rossetti

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Dante Rossetti’s, Jenny: A Cautionary Tale of
Sexual Knowledge and its Destruction of Women

“The whole education of women ought to be relative to men. To please them, to be useful to them, to make themselves loved and honored by them”
- John-Jacques Rousseau

England in the 19th century was wrought with the battle for women’s rights, specifically the education of women. In his poem, Jenny, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s narrator makes various references to books – those on his shelf, and how pressing a flower into a book can “crush the flower within the soul” (256). He appears to make a social commentary within his poem about the unknown thoughts of a common whore about the debate on women’s education. Rossetti uses the books to symbolize the
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His sister, Christina, was also a renowned poet and just as scholarly as he. Christina found some modicum of success as an illustrator, but as a woman, most of her artwork, according to Lorraine Kooistra, was “for private pleasure rather than public recognition” (2) . Dante is on record as being one of his sister’s greatest supporters in her illustrating, and later, her writing. Christina herself went on to write many texts that are still studied to this day, to include “Goblin Market” and “Remember”. On the other hand, Dante’s own wife had been a model before she married him. Their engagement lasted ten-years and it is assumed they would have had a sexual relationship before their marriage. Therefore, Dante would have seen how sex could potentially destroy a woman’s life. He may have pondered over wedding a woman who would have been considered “fallen” by society’s standards—something his narrator debates constantly throughout …show more content…
Here, Rossetti uses the book and rose as a simile for a woman’s innocence being crushed by carnal knowledge. Once she opens the book, and even glimpses at its contents, she is ruined and no longer innocent. Therefore, the narrator decides that Nell should not interact with Jenny, for fear spending time with her would cause Nell’s own rose to become crushed. Using a crushed rose here is a good way to emphasize the ill effects of carnal knowledge. Francisco Silva explains this concept in his essay “Red as Blood, White as Snow, Black as Crow: Chromatic Symbolism of Womanhood”. Silva states that in many texts, a rose is used to symbolize a woman’s budding innocence, or “the fruitful aspects of womb blood as well as for youth” (245). Jenny’s soul being crushed by the knowledge of sex would destroy the idea of her innocence and the narrator would want to protect other innocent women from this fate. Rossetti furthers this concept of a faded or dead rose in lines 264-275 when he

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